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Dead malls: You could shop... until they dropped

Once booming, now barren. Let’s take a peek at malls of Richmond’s past — plus hope for the future.

A dark, abandoned store interior. Small pieces of debris are scattered around the floor, and a piece of flooring has been torn up.

An abandoned JCPenney in the former Cloverleaf Mall circa 2011.

Photo by Will Fisher via Wikimedia Commons

Shopping malls across America have been left in a state that not even Paul Blart could save, and Richmond is no exception.

Known as “dead malls,” these abandoned, dilapidated, or mostly vacant shopping centers have become a subject of fascination — especially thanks to the online popularity of liminal space aesthetics.

Let’s go to the mall

Regency Square Mall was once in its heydey, boasting stores like JC Penney and Thalhimers and a food court that was added in the late ‘80s. Photo archives show the mall bustling with life during the holidays and a parking lot packed with cars in 1990. By 2019, however, the mall was left with only JC Penney as an anchor.

~10 miles away, Cloverleaf Mall opened in 1972 as the largest indoor shopping center in the area. Locals may remember its 20-ft pool + various plants adorning the mall’s interior. After slowly losing tenants and sitting mostly empty, Cloverleaf officially closed in 2008, with mall demolition beginning in 2011.

A front-facing shot of a JC Penney store that spans two levels. The lower level is bordered up, but the top level is open with the lights on. One person is seen walking to the left of the store. On the ground floor, a group of four lounge chairs sit empty, and a lone plant rests nearby.

Regency Square Mall’s JC Penney circa 2019.

Photo by Elyse Horvath via Flickr

Back to the future

Today Regency Square Mall is still around, but not as it once was. Plans to redevelop the mall into a mixed-use space have been in the works for several years now, and the mall was partially razed in 2020. Most recently, redevelopment leaders announced a small expansion.

As for Cloverleaf Mall, it became Stonebridge Shopping Center — a multi-use center with Kroger, restaurants, and specialty shops.

Though these malls have changed, Richmond still has a number of other thriving shopping centers where you can make like NSYNC and buy, buy, buy:

  • Willow Lawn | This former indoor mall is now a sprawling shopping center with retail and restaurants. Further mixed-use development is also in the cards.
  • Short Pump Town Center | The outdoor mall recently celebrated 20 years of business in Henrico.
  • Stony Point Fashion Park | The Huguenot shopping center is home to major retailers, local dining, and a CMX CinéBistro.
  • Chesterfield Towne Center | Pro tip: A permanent PopUp RVA marketplace opens Aug. 1 at this Southside shopping center.

Do you have memories of a local mall from back in the day? Share them with us and we may feature your story in a future newsletter: First date at the food court, trying on prom dresses at the department store, hitting up Orange Julius before picking up the perfect graphic tee at Hot Topic — we wanna hear it all.

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